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Council approves new stadium plan
(Published January 10, 2005)

Maintaining the same 7-6 split that two weeks earlier approved a stadium financing plan which angered Major League Baseball officials, D.C. City Council voted Dec. 21 to reverse itself by removing a sunset provision that jeopardized a new ballpark's construction.

Shortly after the vote, baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced that the Washington Nationals baseball club would resume business and promotional activities that were suspended after the council's Dec. 14 vote.

"We are now more confident than ever of a long and productive relationship with the city of Washington as we move forward with this great project," Selig said in a written statement.

The deal, announced by Mayor Anthony A. Williams and council Chairman Linda W. Cropp after a day of negotiations with baseball officials on Dec. 20, still requires the city to seek private financing to cover at least 50 percent of the estimated $240 million cost of ballpark construction. But council members removed a provision that killed the stadium project entirely if private financing cannot be found.

On a voice vote, the council also added a provision to the legislation that would limit D.C. taxpayers' liability for cost overruns or construction delays, including a requirement that Major League Baseball share the cost of insurance against cost overruns.

Estimates of the total project costs, including land acquisition and infrastructure, have varied widely from $440 million to more than $600 million. Most of the money to repay industrial revenue bond investors, who will initially finance the project, is expected to come from a utility tax and a gross receipts tax imposed on the District's business community.

The Nationals, which played last season's National League schedule as the Montreal Expos, have agreed to play their first three seasons in the nation's capital at a refurbished Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The $24 million, publicly financed stadium renovation already is underway.

Joining Cropp in approving the stadium deal were council members Harold Brazil, D-At Large; Jack Evans, D-Ward 2; Vincent B. Orange, D-Ward 5; Sharon Ambrose, D-Ward 6; Kevin P. Chavous, D-Ward 7; and Sandy Allen, D-Ward 8. Brazil, Chavous and Allen were replaced on the council Jan. 2 when their successors elected in November were sworn in.

Maintaining their previous opposition to the stadium financing plan were council members David A. Catania, I-At Large; Phil Mendelson, D-At Large; Carol Schwartz, R-At Large; Jim Graham, D-Ward 1; Kathy Patterson, D-Ward 3; and Adrian Fenty, D- Ward 4.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator